Palestine – Obama, Some Home Truths And Missed Opportunities
By: David Singer
Jews and Arabs are destined to become engaged in many years of further fighting, trauma and suffering unless President Obama does a complete backflip by adopting a different stance to that he expressed in his long awaited speech at Cairo University on 4 June.
The President has jumped head first into a bottomless hole in unequivocally proposing to his Cairo audience that the two state solution – the creation of a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan – remains the â€œonly resolutionâ€ to end the 130 years conflict between Jews and Arabs in relation to the territory once known as Palestine.
President Obama has conveniently chosen to ignore that 94% of former Palestine has already been divided into two states – the Jewish State of Israel (17%) and the Arab State of Jordan (77%) – with both of those States being parties to a peace treaty executed by them in 1994.
Sovereignty in the remaining 6% of former Palestine – the West Bank and Gaza – still remains unallocated between Jews and Arabs.
The idea that sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza be divided other than between Jordan and Israel (and possibly Egypt) has resulted in a journey to nowhere for the last 62 years. President Obama has now joined former American Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush in embroiling himself in brokering a solution that has no possible chance of succeeding.
This has not been for want of trying by the international community or President Obamaâ€™s presidential predecessors.
Missed opportunities by the Arabs to create a separate independent sovereign Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza have been squandered on at least six notable occasions in the past 62 years:
1. When offered by the United Nations in 1947
2. During the 19 years between 1948-1967 that Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt occupied Gaza – where not one Jew or Jewish town or village was located following the expulsion of all Jews living there as a consequence of the 1948 War of Independence
3. Between 1967-1988 when the Arabs refused to deal with or negotiate with Israel on the future of the West Bank and Gaza
4. Following the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993
5. In 2000 at Camp David in negotiations brokered by President Clinton between PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israelâ€™s then Prime Minister Ehud Barak
6. During negotiations conducted under President Bushâ€™s Roadmap between 2003-2007 and under the Annapolis process between 2007-2008.
The failure to create a new Arab state between Jordan and Israel has been the result of the following intransigent and uncompromising Arab demands:
1. Their inability to accept the existence of a Jewish State in any part of former Palestine
2. Their refusal to receive anything less than 100% of the West Bank and Gaza
3. Their unwillingness to abandon their demand that millions of Arabs and their descendants be allowed to return and live in what is now Israel.
What magic formula President Obama intends to use to remove these barriers to achieving his two state solution was not articulated by him in Cairo.
Until he does so he is merely posturing and grandstanding, saying what the Arabs want to hear but remaining silent on what the Arabs need to do to make the Presidentâ€™s two state solution have any chance of getting off the ground.
President Obamaâ€™s approach to Jews living in the West Bank was hasty and ill considered as he told his applauding audience in Cairo:
â€œThe United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)â€
The Jews possess the entitlement in international law to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in the West Bank under the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine – an international trust that has been preserved under Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
Anyone suggesting therefore that Jews do not have the inalienable right to live in the West Bank and reconstitute their National Home in areas designated by the Mandate where international sovereignty is yet to be determined is sliding on very thin ice. President Obamaâ€™s call to Israel to halt what has been conferred on the Jews by international law needs to be firmly resisted.
Whether that right should be exercised at this particular moment is a different issue. Denying that such a right exists does not help one iota in ending the conflict. In fact it exacerbates and fuels Arab intransigence in seeking sovereignty in every square centimetre of the West Bank and Gaza to the total exclusion of any Jewish claims.
President Obama failed to mention United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 337 and President Bushâ€™s letter dated 14 April 2004 to Israelâ€™s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. These documents make it clear that Israel cannot be expected to return to the fragile armistice lines that existed in 1967.
Security remains the overriding concern for Israel as it seeks to protect its citizens from armed organizations and States that refuse and will never concede that Jews are entitled to have a state in their biblical ancestral and internationally recognised homeland.
Israel will not be returning to the 1967 armistice lines now or in the future. Until the Arabs accept this reality President Obamaâ€™s speech in Cairo will become just the latest in a long list of required reading by diplomats and university students enrolled in international relations courses trying to fathom out why it has been impossible to determine sovereignty in an area of land the size of Delaware for the last 62 years.
Well may they all shake their heads in disbelief.
Contrary to President Obamaâ€™s prescription the only solution that now has any chance of working is the division of sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza between Israel ,Jordan and Egypt determined in direct trilateral negotiations between those three states.
The sooner President Obama focuses his thoughts on this solution the sooner we might see an American President who will succeed where others before him have so ignominiously failed.